Happy Summer Solstice to all! And to my fellow yogis, if this tradition is in your practice, I hope you had a memorable 108 Sun Salutations.
* * *
Department Of Hearing What Is Arguably The Understatement Of The Millenia
While Listening To A Fresh Air Podcast
“There is a very dark part of the Catholic church’s history…”
“There is a very dark part of the Catholic church’s history, that has only recently come to the attention of the public. For more than a century, the church financed its expansion and its institutions with the profits from the enslaved people the church bought and sold. Without the enslaved, the Catholic church in the United States as we know it today would not exist…
‘…the priests prayed for the salvation of the souls of the people they owned, even as they bought and sold their bodies.’ “
( “How the Catholic Church Profited from Slavery – the ‘272’ explains how,”
Fresh Air, 6-13-23 )
For anyone shocked by the idea that religious folk and/or those under their sway would do such a thing, may I remind y’all that we’ve been warned about this for centuries:
“Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities Can Make You Commit Atrocities.”
(Voltaire, French Enlightenment writer and philosopher, who somehow managed to escape the guillotine despite his anti-religion pronouncements.  )
Subdepartment Of An Excerpt From The FA Podcast Which Demonstrates Why I Am Not Terry Gross Nor Am I The Host Of Any Other Interview Show:
“You’re Catholic and you’re Black. When you first found out about the church’s role in slavery…you certainly didn’t learn that in school. What was your reaction?”
“I was astounded…. I have a better than average familiarity with the 19th century and slavery….This history was certainly familiar to historians, but it is not well-known…. I am Black and Catholic. I had no idea. And the reason why is that…enslaved people have been largely left out of the origin story that is traditionally told about the Catholic Church….”
“Has it changed your relationship to the Catholic Church?”
“…it has, but perhaps not in the way that you might expect. I am…a practicing Catholic.”
Moiself , in my dreams, standing in for TG:
RS (my emphases):
“…in a lot of ways, it has actually deepened my connection to the church…. as a Black Catholic, I didn’t always see myself in the church. I think I saw the church as it’s often portrayed, as kind of a northern church, an immigrant church. But now I see myself in the church. And these families who were so determined to hold onto their faith and to make the church true to what it said it was – a universal church, a church that welcomed and accepted everyone….”
Swarns’ phrasing, re (Black) people “determined to hold on to their faith,” both frosts my butt and breaks my heart. The basic idea – clinging to the religion you’ve been taught – is understandable with regard to desperation and survival instincts. But to hold on to a faith that was not theirs to begin with – a faith forced upon enslaved Africans after they’d been kidnapped, forcibly shipped across an ocean and stripped of their own faiths and spiritual traditions? This is not, IMO, something to admire, but to lament.
Again, the human instinct to survive, and the psychological phenomenon known as The Stockholm Syndrome – a coping mechanism wherein people in a captive or abusive situation develop positive feelings toward their captors or abusers over time – make such choices understandable. But it is this very same, naïve, survivalist, WTF ?!?!? mindset which allows myth and superstition (and the resulting abuses that accompany such beliefs) to also survive, and even flourish. Teaching those they enslaved to lean upon Christianity – with its scriptures authorizing, rationalizing, and even promoting slavery  and its admonitions for slaves to obey their masters  – proved to be a most effective antidote to that which slaveholders feared most: a slave rebellion.
* * *
Yet Another Illustration Of The Reasons Why…
…in this “everyone is offended” literary atmosphere, moiself considers it a wise marshalling of my mental health faculties, to no longer be submitting work for publication. Witness what has just happened to author Elizabeth Gilbert, she of White Women Whine Eat Pray Love renown.
” US author Elizabeth Gilbert is pulling her novel The Snow Forest from publication, in response to a backlash from Ukrainian readers unhappy about the book being set in Russia….”
( “Gilbert withdraws Russia-set novel from publication,” Books+publishing 6-14-23 )
Worse than what happened to Gilbert is her reaction to it. She fell into the ultimate trap for a writer: she didn’t wait for publishers to censor her; she censored herself.
“The chief danger to freedom of thought and speech… is not the direct interference of any official body. Intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face.…
The sinister fact about literary censorship… is that it is largely voluntary.”
( George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984 )
Excerpt from a PEN America’s town hall-style discussion on writers and self-censorship (described on their website as “…a sprawling, impassioned but overwhelmingly civil conversation among four prominent writers about art, identity, appropriation and the state of free expression…”):
“John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University and author of the new book Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, opened the discussion…on a blunt note. ‘To be a writer today, in the current climate, is to be someone who certainly probably censors themselves in some way,‘ he said.
…he recalled an academic talk he gave in the mid-1990s, about Creole languages and women, which some in the audience chose to interpret as offensive and sexist.
Listening to their criticisms, he said, ‘I thought, I don’t deserve this. And I decided I would never again say or write anything about issues having to do with women or sexism.’ “
(“Is Self-censorship a problem for writers?” NYtimes 12-9-21 )
And another rational voice is silenced…or at least diverted.
* * *
Department of Is Zen Enlightenment for Real?
A Freethought Today blog post, Is Zen Enlightenment for Real?, caught my attention with its provocative title. I’ve been reading about Buddhism for many years – not for the sake of personal practice (although I do use Buddhist-informed techniques via mindfulness meditation) but for the same reasons I read about Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant forms of Christianity, and other religions and/or spiritual traditions: to try to comprehend how fear/ignorance superstition have ruled the world for so long my fellow human beings.
As I understand it, the answer to the oft-posed question, Is Buddhism a philosophy or a religion? is, *yes.* Buddhism can be – and is – practiced as both, around the world. 
Many years ago, I attended an annual convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation at the FFRF’s headquarter city, Madison WI. I was attending solo, and struck up conversations with another “solos,” one of whom I’ll call Dan. I can’t remember how we got on the topic, but Dan told me that his wife, Evelyn, who was from China, and that Evelyn was raised, as she put it, “both Buddhist and (nominally) Christian,” as were her family and neighbors.
Evelyn had said this when she and Dan were first dating and had begun sharing their respective family stories. When Dan asked her how that was possible – to be both Buddhist and Christian – she told him how. Her story caused Dan to look at missionary “conversion” statistics with a keen, if jaundiced, eye: Evelyn and her family, and many people from their village, were “Rice Christians.” The RC term is something I’d heard before; nevertheless, my foreknowledge of the phenomenon did not lessen the impact of what Dan told me.
Evelyn’s family, like most families in her rural Chinese village, were very poor. In the early through mid-1900s, Christian missionaries came to her village. The villagers, many of whom were closet skeptics as to their own culture’s spiritual traditions, were not impressed by the missionaries’ proselytizing; thus, once their curiosity re the strange Americans had been slaked, they avoided the church services the missionaries invited them to attend. However, the villagers ended up signing the missionaries’ religious enrollment forms, because if they did so the missionaries would give them huge sacks of rice (and send pictures of the enrollment forms – proof of success in converting Chinese heathens! – back to the American churches and individuals funding the missions).
Dan attended FFRF events solo because Evelyn was not interested in any organization which had even a remote connection to religion. She was dismissive of “American religions,” and held her greatest scorn for Americans who, while not born into a Buddhist culture, claimed to be Buddhist and/or revere the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist teachers. Dan said Evelyn cringed whenever she encountered non-Asian Buddhist Americans (“Amerboos“ she called them). In Evelyn’s experience, such people knew nothing but “Buddhism light:” a Westernized version of Buddhism which had little relation to the superstition-laden, reality-denying religion of her homeland. Evelyn said Amerboos had no idea that, beyond the mindfulness techniques which have been scientifically demonstrated to be useful, Buddhism is just another religion/superstition in many places around the world. For example, in the rural China where Evelyn was from, upon the death of family members and for other major life events, villagers felt pressured into paying Buddhist priests to perform ritual house cleansings and/or blessings.
Dan and moiself had an interesting discussion about the subject, including the idea that yes, Buddhism can be just another superstition/religion exploiting the poor and ignorant…but can’t it also be practiced in a more modern way, ala those who claim to follow Buddhist teachings as a secular philosophy?
And after that long-winded introduction, on to that Freethought Now blog post, which provoked this portion of moiself’s post. The author wrote “please share this article,” and I shall do so in its entirety (my emphases):
“I’m intrigued by Zen meditation as a supposed path to enlightenment.
I’ve tried repeatedly — lying silent in bed, blanking out my mind, hearing nothing but the rhythm of my breath, seeing nothing but dark blurs behind my eyelids. But all it does is put me to sleep. In the end, I never get a smidgeon of enlightenment. I’m still just the same old me.
I wonder whether anyone finds enlightenment — or whether the quest is self-deceptive, a fantasy leading nowhere.
American Buddhism is a mushrooming field with many gurus. It’s followed by intellectuals such as brilliant atheist Sam Harris. Researcher John Horgan wrote some years ago: ‘The number of Buddhist centers in the United States has more than doubled to well over 1,000. As many as 4 million Americans now practice Buddhism, surpassing the total of Episcopalians. Of these Buddhists, half have post-graduate degrees.’
Horgan wrote in Slate that he plunged ardently into the exotic pursuit, but … ‘Eventually, and regretfully, I concluded that Buddhism is not much more rational than the Catholicism I lapsed from in my youth. Buddhism’s moral and metaphysical worldview cannot easily be reconciled with science — or more generally, with modern humanistic values.’
Buddhism’s insistence that suffering is an illusion theoretically could make followers less concerned when bigoted police kill unarmed Black men, or women are victimized by predators, or other outrages occur. 
Horgan added that supposedly enlightened gurus can be unappetizing: ‘Chogyam Trungpa, who helped introduce Tibetan Buddhism to the United States in the 1970s, was a promiscuous drunk and bully, and he died of alcohol-related illness in 1987.’
Robert Fuller, former president of Oberlin College, made an intense study of meditation gurus and their adoring followers. Writing in Psychology Today, he summed up: ‘Getting a close look at several individuals who were advertised as enlightened led me to conclude that there’s a lot of hype and hypocrisy in the business. A good many of them, not unlike a fair number of academics I’d known, seemed to be in it primarily for the lifestyle. Many gurus are treated like deities and hold absolute power over their devotees. As ‘enlightened beings,’ they’re accountable to no one, and their foibles, appetites and excesses are given a pass.’
‘The language of enlightenment tended to be esoteric, obscurantist and elitist, and the teachings attracted more credulous dabblers than credible seekers,’ he continued. ‘In my quest, I did not come across anyone who could be said to dwell in a state of permanent enlightenment.’
I’ve never known any meditator who seemed enlightened. Have you? Have you ever seen amazing insights or remarkable creative output by an enlightenee?
( “Is Zen Enlightenment for Real?” By James A. Haught, Freethought Now blog, 6-8-23. Longtime editor at the Charleston Gazette, Haught is a senior editor of Free Inquiry. )
* * *
Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week 
“When you’re black there’s like no religion to turn to. Christianity? I don’t think so. White people justified slavery and segregation through Christianity, so a black Christian is like a black person with no fucking memory.”
(Comedian Cris Rock )
* * *
May you examine those mindsets with which you may have
a Stockholm Syndrome-relationship;
May you never be described as a person “with no f****** memory;”
May you smack upside the noggin any literary lunkheads who conflate setting a book in a particular country with supporting that particular country’s politics;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Numbers 31 tells the particularly galling story of sex slavery: how the taking of female captives is encouraged by Moses, who, after being instructed by Yahweh to take vengeance upon the Midianites, tells the Israelites to kill Midianite male children and nonvirgin females but take the young virgins for themselves.
 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)
“Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)
( Using the following parable, Jesus approves of beating slaves even if they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong):
“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:47-48 NIV)
 To relate one personal experience, years ago I attended a Buddhist “church” service in Portland (with a friend who had practiced Buddhist meditation for years and wanted to check out the church). The structure of the service was very reminiscent to me of various Protestant services…perhaps, to match the comfort or familiarity level of (non-Asian )white attendees, who comprised ~ 50% of the attendees, I wondered?
 I have those same thoughts myself, and have heard them from people born into a culture that held some belief in “karma,” and/or reincarnation, such as a man from India who said that he rejected his family’s hindu beliefs when he saw saw how practicing Hindus justified their not helping fellow citizens out of poverty because their suffering wasn’t real, or was brought on by their own deeds and if they live a good life they can be reincarnated under better circumstances….
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org